Easiest, Cheapest Way To Speed Up Your Mac

4623570_raw.jpgI’ve recently been playing around a LOT with various development tools for HTML5 on my aging MacBook Pro… The thing is 6 years old now which is ancient in computing terms. And it was beginning to show its age so I began searching around for ways to bring it back to it’s former life and speed it up a bit.

In doing so I updated our ReviewMacSoftware site with the information over a couple of articles. The first article about speeding up a mac can be found at http://www.reviewmacsoftware.com/how-to-make-your-mac-run-faster.html – this is the first article I wrote which gained some good comments and some of those comments had some great other tips for getting the speed back into your Mac. I’ve done all of the things I’ve listed on that article, including updating to SSD (BIG difference, but big cost too) as well as checking permissions and so on. Worth a quick read if you want to speed your mac up a bit.

One of the comments was about Detox Your Mac which I’ll be honest I haven’t even tried as yet, but lots of people seem to like it. It’s available as a digital download on ClickBank. Clean My Mac 3 gets some fairly good reviews around the Web too and I like most of what it does if you don’t want to get under the hood of your Mac yourself. A lot of people on the Apple Support forums don’t seem to like it, but they’re experienced Mac System Administrators so I suspect their dislike for it is simply based on the fact that their experience with OSX means they can do better manually.

SDCZ528GB_sandisk_sandisk_cruzer_switch_8gb_usb_flash_drive_blackBut in the end, the biggest speed up for my MacBook was actually to re-install Yosemite from USB, with a complete reformat of the hard drive and just a restoration of my documents from a Time Machine backup. After that the Mac felt like new – it’s quick, runs cooler (and therefore quieter since I have MacFans running which speeds up the fans a bit if it gets warm). The only things that seem to stress it now are web browsers – is there ANY decent web browser available for OSX that doesn’t have memory leaks and eventually bring the system to a crawl? Chrome, Firefox and Safari all suffer the same fate and get the fans spinning and the bottom of the computer cooking my legs….

I know it seems a bit self serving to link to a bunch of articles on a site that I own and run myself, but the readership of this blog is a bit different to the readership over there (indeed, ReviewMacSoftware doesn’t really (at this stage) have any regular readers – everyone just comes from Google for the particular article they need) so I thought I’d highlight some of the articles and hopefully, if you use a Mac too, you can save yourself some upgrade dollars and make your mac run faster by combining all the different advice there into one blog post here.

Good luck, I hope the article was at least semi useful and please feel free to get in touch by leaving a comment below

Slow Safari in OSX Lion

I’ve just recently updated my MacBook Pro to OSX Lion. In general I’m pretty happy with it but there were a few issues, relating to speed that really significantly annoyed me. This blog post is to remind me what I did to solve those issues and perhaps if someone else reads them and is helped too then that’s a bonus!

Safari. This issue isn’t specifically related to Lion because I dropped using Safari months ago because it was just too slow. But Safari is the only browser that plays really nicely with Lions finger sweep gestures and so I was determined to get it back to proper functionality. With that in mind I went searching and discovered a useful tidbit. The 64bit version of Safari is, in general it seems, a bag of nails. So to fix it, open up your Applications folder, right click over Safari and select Get Info. In the info box that pops up you should see a tick box that says ‘Open in 32bit mode’. Put a tick in there and restart Safari… Since doing this my Safari has returned to its zippy self.

Wi-Fi. The performance of my network seemed to be really slow after the Lion upgrade. I can’t quantify it and have no hard firm data to back up my claims. But it just seemed really slow. I changed a couple of things which seem to have brought it back into line. Not sure which one did the trick but here they are;

First, open System Preferences and choose Network. At the top, where it says Location, choose Edit Locations from the drop down. Create a new location – in my case I called it Home. Then, select Home from the drop down. I’ve no idea why this might’ve helped – perhaps someone can comment on why.

Secondly, I also changed the MTU setting to 1492 as per a recommendation from the net. This is the standard setting for a device using PPPoE – and it’s the same setting as the router which connects to the internet. This sort of makes sense that having the same MTU as the internet device would speed things up since packets are getting fragmented the same for each device.

Once I did those three things, the net seems to be back to being happy and Safari is much happier. I’m now happy with Lion – love the new trackpad gestures and Mission Control is a welcome addition!

MacBook Pro Performance running Parallels

Or VirtualBox, and probably VMWare too.

Its been some months now since I made the switch from PC to Mac, using OSX Snow Leopard. Initially I was really pleased with the performance of the MBP, it was considerably quicker on lesser hardware than Vista had ever been. But there was a niggling slowdown on occasions.

It’s fair to say that I am a pretty heavy power user, I run Eclipse for web development work, and Firefox with various plugins, along with the real power hungry VirtualBox (and lately Parallels) for checking websites in Internet Explorer. The MBP runs quite nicely until I fire up VirtualBox. Then it gets dragged down and just generally feels like syrup on a cold morning, which can be frustrating because if you’re running a bunch of programs and suddenly want to find o2 Mobile Phones via Google or just run an antivirus check, watching the machine tank is pretty irritating. The odd thing is, the CPU was definitely not the problem because it never ran below about 85% idle, unless I was doing something heavy in the virtual machine but then it didn’t really matter because you’d expect that. I thought that perhaps having the 5400RPM drive in the machine might have been a mistake.

It certainly seemed that it was generally disk based activity that was really grinding the machine down. Safari was an oddball in the mix. It would often SBBOD and occasionally I saw weird graphical artifacts, particularly when first opening a new tab. Checking the disk usage I could see that it was getting used quite heavily, but that was mostly because the machine had nearly 2Gigs of RAM swapped out. On a 4Gig machine that means that I’m effectively using nearly 6 Gigs of RAM, which seems unlikely. It is of course OSX not Vista, so it shouldn’t really use that much! I’ve set the virtual machine to use 1Gig of RAM so that leaves 5G for the rest. Eclipse can be a beast, but it’s not that big of a beast.

Then I went to the Energy Preferences panel of Snow Leopard and made a tweak. I changed the graphics settings from ‘Better Battery Life’ to ‘Higher Performance’, which basically boils down to switching out the on board 9400M for the more powerful 9600GT big brother.

I’d expect graphics intensive applications to respond better with the 9600GT in place – but I don’t use all that many (occasionally PhotoShop comes out to play, but not often). Eve Online of course responds significantly better on the 9600GT, I’d already tried that some months ago. But what I didn’t bank on was how much better the whole system responds when you’re running Parallels or VirtualBox. It seems that the 9600GT allows much better virtualisation for some reason.

But the whole other issue that is totally obscure, and I really don’t understand why – so if you have an idea please leave a comment below – is that now, with all the same apps open, I have 300Meg of swap used. Not the 2Gigs I previously had. Needless to say, since there’s nowhere near as much swapped out, the whole system is responding much better. By a very long way. It’s like I’ve turned the MBP into a desktop machine.

The only downer is that the battery doesn’t seem to last as long – but that’s expected too. Having said that if the machine is more useable for the time it is alive then you can probably be more productive and get just as much done 🙂

Telstra iPhone Tethering ‘Call Telstra on 125 111 to enable tethering’

iphoneIf you’re an iPhone user on Telstra’s NextG network you may have been disappointed when iPhone tethering suddenly stopped working back in July or sometime there about, when a new set of ‘Carrier Settings’ were downloaded from iTunes onto your iPhone. The good news is that this weekend just gone, Telstra issued a new set of Carrier Settings through iTunes which re-enables tethering – and this time properly and officially.

I installed the new Carrier Settings after reading of everyone’s success around the net. I was rapt. The Optus coverage at mother-in-laws is pants and I often need to work from there while my wife and mother-in-law do other things.

Except that it didn’t work. Every time I went into Settings -> General -> Network and tried to enable tethering I just got a popup message that said to enable tethering I must contact Telstra on 125 111 or visit http://www.telstra.com. It gives you three buttons, Call, Go to Website, or Cancel. Nothing about switching it on anyway. I spent an hour on the phone with Telstra, who eventually handed me off to Apple.

After an iPhone reset, a Network Settings Reset followed by an iPhone reset, and then a full Restore of my iPhone I was still no better off.

And then I found this thread which explained that my Telstra account probably wasn’t set up right. It was highly likely since I’d actually bought my iPhone from Optus and then transferred to Telstra after the Kinglake bushfires rendered Optus unusable for weeks. My APN was set to telstra.internet because telstra.iph didn’t work. As is indicated in the thread previously mentioned, you DO need to have the ability to use telstra.iph to use tethering.

The trouble is that most people on the Telstra helpdesk don’t know about this. So you have to ring 1800 IPHONE and ask them clearly to add the iPhone codes to your account. You’ll need to be specific and possibly need to justify why you want it. But if you’re not specific they’ll go through hours of trying to diagnose why your iPhone consistently tells you to call them on 125 111.

I hope that helps someone. Please leave a comment if it does!

Regular OSX SBBOD (Spinning Beachball of Death) :: FIXED

sbbod-221 Over the past few days I had begun to think that my MacBook Pro was developing a problem. Every so often – and I can’t put my finger on how long, but possibly every 10 minutes or so – no matter what application I was using I would get a Spinning Beachball of Death, or SBBOD. The image to the left is familiar to any Mac OSX user on occasions – sometimes things just do take longer than 5 seconds to achieve and thats when OSX will present you with the beachball in all its glory.

But, you shouldn’t really see it when you’re just browsing web pages. And I was. So I went on the hunt, I googled for causes of the SBBOD, and found lots of great answers, many of which I thought had fixed things and then discovered 9 minutes later that nope, no they hadn’t.

There’s a number of things that can cause a SBBOD, including 3rd party Safari plugins (and it seemed as if Safari was usually what I was running when it occurred, although Mail was exhibiting the issue too, along with other things). One site I discovered advised me to remove the file Database.sqlite3 from ~/Library/PubSub/Database. This tip did seem to improve the startup speed of Safari – though I’m not entirely sure why.

However, the actual fix turned out to be entirely off the MacBook Pro and in fact was on a different machine on the network.

I run a DHCP server (most home users probably just use the broadband router for assigning addresses) as I have a number of virtual machines, along with printers and such like that I prefer to be able to set a fixed address.

The DHCP server had not started up after a restart and as such was not issuing IP addresses. The MacBook Pro was trying to start the networking components, waiting for a response from the DHCP server and when it didn’t receive one in a timely fashion it went ahead and used the previous address that it had been assigned. That’s fair and good, it meant I could get online – part of the ‘It Just Works’ plan I suspect.

But unfortunately it seems that because the IP address hadn’t been properly assigned by the DHCP server, OSX was on occasion attempting to re-validate the settings and that was causing anything that used the network to have to wait until the DHCP request timed out.

Once I restarted the DHCP server, my OSX has been back to it’s awesome self and I’ve seen not even one SBBOD! Wahoo!

The moral of the story: Make sure your DHCP server is running, or manually configure your IP address!

Eclipse Line Numbers Not Scrolling On OSX

Eclipse 3.5 Galileo OSX Cocoa version released June 24th fixes line numbers, breakpoint markers and cold folding regions scrolling problems that appear after upgrading OSX to 10.5.6 or greater.

eclipseIf you’re using the fantastic Eclipse IDE on OSX then you may have come across a small but highly annoying issue whereby the line numbers, breakpoint markers and cold folding sections in the left hand gutter do not scroll when you move through a long page you’re working on.

I discovered this happened only after upgrading to OSX 10.5.6, and there was a number of blog entries across the web that talked about how OSX 10.5.6 had broken the Dvorak keyboard layout but very little about Eclipse line numbers not scrolling. Most of the articles I did manage to find didn’t mention that the problem didn’t exist on 10.5.5 and previous. One that did, suggested waiting until 10.5.7 for a fix.

Unfortunately 10.5.7 does not fix the Eclipse line numbers not scrolling issue.

The good news is that there is a solution. Over at the Aptana support forum I came across an article talking exactly what I was experiencing – and someone commented that Eclipse 3.5 Galileo was to be soon released and that they couldn’t reproduce the problem on that version. After more digging – and this is where the Dvorak keyboard issue came up – I discovered that OSX 10.5.6 made some changes to the Carbon Framework libraries. Eclipse 3.4 was built using the Carbon Libraries.

Eclipse 3.5 comes in 2 flavours now (actually, 3, but only 2 32 bit flavours). There’s the original Carbon Framework version, and the shiny new Cocoa Framework version. The Cocoa Framework is the newer OSX programming framework and the good news is, the line numbers, breakpoint markers and code folding icons all scroll correctly with Eclipse 3.5 Galileo on 10.5.5, 10.5.6 and 10.5.7.

So if you’re on OSX Leopard, 10.5.6 or above and having issues with Eclipse, I highly recommend Galileo Eclipse 3.5 which was released on June 24 (though I’ve been using a release candidate for a month or so now with no issues).